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Truck weight safety study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

April 28, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Truck attorney says overweight trucks must be carefully regulated

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is conducting a study on truck weight and its impact on the safety of trucks.

This is good news. It’s simple physics that heavier trucks, and trucks that fall beyond the legal weight limit of 80,000 pounds, cause more serious truck accidents, greater injury and more carnage when they are involved in crashes.

The FMSCA and the Federal Highway Administration are conducting the study, which is called the Specialized Heavy Vehicle Inspection (SHVI) study. According to the Department of Transportation, the truck safety study is to better understand the safety performance of heavier commercial vehicles. It will provide funding to state agencies responsible for large truck roadside safety inspections, and then collect safety data from roadside inspections on vehicles exceeding certain weight levels to determine if there are any associations between higher vehicle weights and motor carrier safety violations — particularly those with out-of-service conditions.

As I mentioned in a recent blog about a proposal to legalize triple tractor-trailers, currently, without a permit, the gross cargo weight of a tractor-trailer combination cannot legally exceed 80,000 pounds.

Yet weight restrictions are often ignored. Several of the wrongful death truck accidents I have handled as a lawyer for the estate involved trucks that are above this Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) and state of Michigan weight regulation.

The problem with overloading a truck – again, beyond the simple physics of bigger, heavier trucks – is that it affects the steering and braking. For instance, overweight trucks travel slower on upgrades and faster on downgrades. When brakes are forced to work too hard, they can fail. Add to this that almost one in four trucks on our roads today are already so mechanically unsafe that they are in a dangerous out-of-service condition, and this all turns a simple stop into a catastrophic truck accident crash.

Overloaded trucks may tip over on exit ramps. Or when a trucker must suddenly hit the brakes — especially if the heavy loads are not properly loaded and secured — an overloaded tractor-trailer will be more likely to jackknife or lose control.

As this study will address, the weight of a truck also often goes hand-in-hand with whether there are other safety violations. If a truck is purposefully overloaded due to orders from truck company safety directors who are looking to cut corners and save money, you can bet that their brakes and other mechanical equipment are not in perfect working order.

As a truck lawyer for almost 20 years, and as past-president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Group, and current president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyer Association, this has been my own personal experience as well.

Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law and is regarded as one of the top truck attorneys in the country. He has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Why truck accidents are different than car crashes

Truck cargo weight

8 things to know after a truck accident

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (248) 353-7575 or to speak with one of our truck attorneys today.

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